Tetsuya Naito is, at the time of this writing, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He is a former NEVER Openweight champ, IWGP Tag Team champ, IWGP Junior Tag Team champ, G1 Climax winner, and winner of the New Japan Cup. Which is quite a list of accomplishments for a guy who has been active since 2006. It took about two years for Naito to win his first championship with tag team partner Yukiro Takahashi as No Limit. After losing their belts they went to TNA, CMLL, and in 2010 returned to NJPW. During that time Naito was always over, and was getting better and better in the ring. He broke out on his own and had some damn good matches. He won the Openweight belt and spent some more time hopping between Japan and North America. In 2015 though, Naito took on the character that would finally put him at the top of the NJPW landscape.
Naito spent some time working with La Sombra in CMLL and NJPW. As a team, they had a decent amount of success. Naito was made a member of Los Ingobernables, the ungovernables, the top CMLL heel stable. When he got back to Japan, he kept up the gimmick and stable. What makes it so damn effective is that Naito was once a top babyface who saw the NJPW crowd turn on him. His switch to heel was made that much more impactful. Along with EVIL and Bushi, Los Ingobernables de Japon, Naito has taken the reaction of the crowd and worked it into an organic evolution of his character. His in ring work has really jumped up as well after his time in Mexico. He was always good, now, he’s great.
Naito is extremely crisp in the ring. His moves look good, he sells well, and his psychology is super solid. Check out some of the matches below to see what I mean. The guy is already at the top and seems like he can still improve. I’m stoked to see where he goes. The natural progression is to eventually turn back face, that’s always how this works. Like all heel stables, Los Ingobernables de Japon will eventually get too popular and NJPW will have no choice but to turn them face or at the very least, tweener. (it’s probably already at that point tbh) The real question is whether or not he will be able to keep the momentum going once that happens. I honestly think he is far too talented not to. Follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, and let me know what you think of Naito.